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After Fatal Church Stabbing Of Baltimore Grandmother, Day Laborer Arrested

“Evelyn gave her life to Christ and the Church,” Bishop Donté L. Hickman Sr. said of 69-year-old volunteer Evelyn Player, who was stabbed to death at Southern Baptist Church on Nov. 16.

By Dorian Geiger
Manzie Smith Jr Pd

A 62-year-old man is in police custody following a deadly knife attack of a senior citizen church volunteer whose body was found in an East Baltimore Baptist church last month.

Evelyn Player, 69, was found stabbed to death in the restroom of Southern Baptist Church on Nov. 16. and pronounced dead at the scene.

She was described as a deeply spiritual and faithful church volunteer, according to those who knew her. 

“Evelyn gave her life to Christ and the Church,” Southern Baptist Church Bishop Donté L. Hickman Sr. stated in her eulogy, the Baltimore Sun reported. “She was always there. I don’t know of an event, a program, or an activity that Evelyn did not participate in.”

“The murder of Evelyn Player was a senseless, heinous act, and a complete tragedy,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said at a press conference on Dec. 2. “My heartfelt thoughts continue to be with her family, her church family, and her entire community.”

Manzie Smith Jr., 62, who is accused in the fatal knife attack, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder after DNA evidence connected him to the crime, according to the Baltimore Police Department. 

Warren A. Brown, Smith’s defense attorney, confirmed to Oxygen.com that the 62-year-old had been working at the church as a day laborer, and had been hired to move pews.

Arrested on Dec. 1, Smith also faces assault and weapons charges in the case. He’s being detained at a Baltimore holding facility, according to online jail records. He also has also has an extensive criminal history — including arrests for rape and robbery — and had finished serving a supervised parole in October. 

No apparent motive in Player's murder was immediately disclosed by officials.

“It’s a highly emotional circumstance,” Brown told Oxygen.com. “It has the city riled. It’s rubbed a raw nerve. When that happens, there’s this lynch mob mentality that kicks in.”

Brown called into question the state’s forensic evidence and said he plans to pursue an insanity defense on Smith’s behalf. He stated that his client has a serious history of mental illness and suffers from severe delusions and paranoia.

“He fell through the cracks,” Brown said. “His history is replete with acts of violence but is also replete with indications that the system was very much aware of his mental health issues.”

The slaying shocked the church’s community and surrounding Baltimore neighborhoods.

“People are hurting, they’re scared, and they’re searching for answers,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in a statement prior to Smith’s arrest. He had offered up a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Player’s killer.

Baltimore has recorded a recent record of 319 murders in 2021, according to police stats.

A public information officer for the Baltimore Police Department declined to comment on the pending case on Wednesday afternoon. Smith has a preliminary court hearing scheduled for Jan. 4, 2022, according to court records obtained by Oxygen.com.

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